By Kellen M. Quigley

Before the village of Springville goes into a new Cable Franchise Agreement with Charter Communications for services such as television and internet from Spectrum, the Board of Trustees held a public hearing March 2 at its regular meeting regarding the agreement.

During the hearing, some village residents and board members expressed their concerns with Spectrum’s services.

“This is a required hearing when the village renews their cable franchise,” said Mayor Bill Krebs. “We are negotiating that franchise agreement right now, so we are not going to comment on the particular items in the agreement. We are here to give the public the ability to comment on the services Spectrum is giving village residents.”

Virginia Krebs, wife of Mayor Krebs, expressed much frustration Spectrum’s services, saying it has gotten worse over the years even has technology has improved.

“We’ve gotten new routers, we’ve had service people come out, and it’s always the same thing,” she said. “It goes out, you have to go unplug it and plug it in again. A new router doesn’t fix it.”

Krebs said she doesn’t feel the village is getting the best service they can for the prices they pay and would love to see another provider come in.
Another village resident who has been a cable customer for about 40 years said his bills from years ago used to be about $20 a month and now it’s over $130 a month.
“Being a senior citizen, I’m wondering if there’s a possibility of getting a reduction in cost,” he added.

Village trustee Nils Wikman said when Spectrum first came to the area and absorbed Time Warner, many residents were excited about the new cable option as well as the expanded internet service to come with it.

Wikman said one of Spectrum’s promises was to expand service to more rural spots in the area, but there are still many residences in the towns around Springville who cannot get cable or internet service.

“They aren’t denied electricity or landline phone service, but we think it’s okay to deny them cable and internet?” he said.

However, Wikman said his main concern with Spectrum is the affordability, saying $75 a month for internet service is ridiculous compared to the income of many residents. He said internet connection has become nearly as essential as heat and water in today’s world, yet prices remain high.

“Their business model allows them to continue to escalate the price of internet to capitalize on a monopolistic position in a market,” he added. “They know that we don’t have a choice.”

For a recent example, Wikman said Springville Youth Incorporated wanted to expand internet service at the community pool on South Buffalo Street, but learned it would cost $12,400 to run cable for about 200 yards and it would take about six months to complete.

“It’s now time for me to apologize for our residents, for you see, the village can’t do anything to help,” he said. “This franchise agreement is nothing more than a license for Charter Communications to do what we’ve always done. … It’s a no-win situation for the municipality and for the consumer.”
Mayor Krebs said telecommunications are key to the vitality of the village, so the board must be well informed about the impact of internet and phone service to the residents and local economy, and to make sure the services are functional.

“It frightens me to think that we are at the mercy of a monopoly when it comes to telecommunications services, but it is extremely important for all of us,” he said. “We don’t want to be isolated out here.”

A representative from Charter Communications in attendance addressed the board and public after their comments were done, saying the company would follow-up on any issues customers have been having. He also said expanding services to more rural areas has continued with more than 9,200 rural homes in Erie County now getting cable.

The agreement between Springville and Charter Communications will be up for a vote at a future village board meeting.